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Mike Franco is a candidate for the 8th District seat of the Massachusetts Governor’s Council, the only region-wide District race in 2012. Born in Springfield and currently residing in Holyoke, Franco earned a bachelor’s degree from Westfield State University and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Texas. Franco served 23 years in the Air Force Reserve, retiring with the rank of Major, and currently works as a Veterans Services Officer in Holyoke. He will be facing former Springfield Mayor Michael Albano on the November 6th ballot. Albano left office in 2004 under a cloud of controversy that included an FBI investigation of the city and the imposition of the state-mandated Springfield Finance Control Board.
The Springfield Intruder asked Franco three questions regarding the Governor’s Council and his run for the 8th District seat. His answers are below.
Tell us about the Council and the role it plays in state government, and why is it so important?
The Governor’s Council is an eight-member elected board established by the Massachusetts Constitution in colonial times. The Council holds hearings and approves nominations to the District, Probate, Juvenile, Superior, Appeals and Supreme Courts, all of which are lifetime appointments (or until age 70). Massachusetts is one of only two states with a Governor’s Council (the other state being New Hampshire).
The Council provides the only opportunity for the public to have a say in the nomination process. The choice of an individual for a judgeship can seriously impact all state residents. The Governor’s Council also approves appointments for Notary Public and Justices of the Peace. They must approve the Commonwealth’s financial warrants on a weekly basis, without which no money can be paid by the state Treasurer.
The Executive Board of the Council also holds hearings and approves nominations for the Industrial Accident Board and the Parole Board, which are term appointments. And, if the governor issues pardons or commutations, the Council has authority to approve or deny them.
The Eighth District is comprised of 96 cities & towns from Quabbin Reservoir, north and south to the NH/CT borders, and west to the NY state border. Three new towns in the district are Orange, Royalston and Warwick.
In your opinion, what are some of the things the Governor’s Council has failed to properly do in the past and how do you think they could do better going ahead?
The Council has been a “rubber stamp” body for the Governor up until quite recently, approving nearly all the nominations that have come before it without any serious discussion. Before, with rare exception, nearly everyone spoke in favor nominees. But now more of the public is attending the open hearings to voice their opinions. The result is that the Council at times will vote against a nominee. This occurred as recently Sept. 29 when by a tie vote of 3-3 the nominee to the Southern Berkshire District Court, Michael McCarthy, was rejected.
The shift to a more active and engaged Council has not gone unnoticed. Some in the Legislature are agitating to eliminate the Council altogether. This would require a Constitutional amendment; an unlikely occurrence as no plans with sufficient support to replace the Council’s power to approve judges has been put forward.
If you win election this November 6th, what are some of your priorities and what do you see as some of your long-term goals as a member of the Council?
I would bring more balance and breadth of knowledge and experience to the Executive Board. I would continue to help bring the process closer to the people, which essentially would strengthen its “constitutional” standing. I would bring more honesty, integrity and due diligence to the Executive Board of the Governor’s Council. The result would be more effective and efficient state government.